Phono Preamp Reviews

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Michael Fremer  |  Nov 07, 2010  |  First Published: Jul 07, 2010  |  0 comments
Why bother with three phono preamps most of us can't afford? For the same reason the enthusiast automobile magazines cover the newest Ferraris and Lamborghinis: just reading about them is fun.
Wes Phillips  |  Jun 05, 1998  |  0 comments
Audiophiles with budget restrictions (most of us, I imagine) could be forgiven for feeling we're afterthoughts to most manufacturers. Even though we probably keep most companies in business by buying their "entry-" or mid-level products, we're always hearing about products designed "without compromise." Waiter, could you bring the reality check, please?
Paul Bolin  |  Sep 21, 2003  |  0 comments
Trickle-down technology is a grand thing. It's comparatively easy to build an exceptional audio component when there are no constraints on technology, cost, user-friendliness, or lack thereof, but top designers are now packing more and more of the excellence of damn-the-torpedoes components into more affordable and accessible packages. Which brings us to the Aesthetix Rhea, a tubed phono preamplifier of exceptionally distinguished lineage.
Jonathan Scull  |  Aug 10, 2009  |  First Published: Dec 10, 1993  |  0 comments
Just as the Trappist Monks of Digital Audio are once again grabbing at the bellpulls to ring the death knell of analog, another fine piece of gear pops up dedicated exclusively to LP playback: the American Hybrid Technology Phono Stage. To one of the Analog Committed, this is good news. That the unit sounds as wonderful as it does is even better news. Anything else? Pull up a pew, Brother.
Michael Fremer  |  Mar 10, 2020  |  First Published: Jun 01, 2019  |  12 comments
Install a new component in your system and there's usually a period of adjustment as you get used to the difference in sound—especially if the new product costs much less than your reference. Channel D's new Lino C 2.0 balanced phono preamplifier costs $2499, yet my ears instantly accepted its combination of drop-dead, noise-free backgrounds and lack of obvious colorations or sonic personality. I didn't hear it—I heard only my Ortofon A95 cartridge, with which I'm well familiar, as amplified by far more costly phono preamps.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 05, 2021  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2019  |  2 comments
Haniwa's Dr. Tetsuo Kubo is an interesting fellow. If you go to shows, domestic or overseas, you've possibly encountered him in his room a space known for being strewn, shrine-like, with LPs that once belonged to The Absolute Sound's founder, the late Harry Pearson: Dr. Kubo was a fan.
Michael Fremer  |  Dec 07, 2020  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2019  |  19 comments
Since acquiring SME in late 2016, Ajay Shirke's Cadence Group has moved cautiously. First, it revamped and cleaned up the company's somewhat chaotic worldwide distribution. More recently, the new owners eliminated from the bottom of the line the SME Model 10 turntable, introduced in 2000.
Michael Fremer  |  Nov 09, 2020  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2019  |  4 comments
AVM Audio, which has been in business since 1986 (footnote 1), chose last year to enter the turntable market with two models that reflect the company's brushed-aluminum/blue LED visual aesthetics.

It doesn't take a forensic turntable scientist to figure out who manufactures both of those turntable models. Clearly, Pro-Ject does (footnote 2)—although some audiophiles might recognize only a few key parts. Other elements, especially the two different tonearm models, may appear unique to AVM, having been built to their specs.

Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2020  |  First Published: May 01, 2020  |  21 comments
The catastrophic February 6 fire at the factory where Apollo Masters produced LP-mastering lacquers—flat aluminum discs covered with nitrocellulose lacquer—will be old news by the time this column gets to you, but the repercussions of the loss will be ongoing for at least the next year and probably beyond.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 14, 2020  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2020  |  25 comments
The two biggest sonic jolts I've experienced involving phono preamps were from two very different ones: the Petr Mares's Connoisseur 2.0 and Boulder's 2008, which was reviewed in the July 2002 Stereophile. The first was hand-built, single-ended, housed in a wooden case, limited to 100 units, and, when I got to hear it in the mid-1990s, cost around $6000, or about $10,000 in today's dollars. The other was a feature-laden, double-chassis monument to flexibility and surface-mount high technology. It featured beautifully finished, flush-mounted mirrored buttons your fingers just wanted to press.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 19, 2021  |  1 comments
I feel compelled to repeat here an eerie occurrence I related a while back on AnalogPlanet. I reviewed, in the February 1999 Analog Corner column, the Cartridge Man's Digital Stylus Force Gauge, which back then sold for $299.

I still have it, but a decade ago, the battery stopped taking a charge. I put it aside, planning to replace the battery someday.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 29, 2008  |  First Published: Jul 30, 2008  |  0 comments
The German company AQVOX Audio Devices has produced an innovative moving-coil/moving-magnet solid-state phono preamplifier, the Phono 2Ci, that's as intriguing for its technology and performance as it is for its relatively low price: $1400. The zero-feedback, op-amp–free circuit uses a compact switch-mode power supply that's built into the chassis and features conventional voltage gain for moving-magnet cartridges via its RCA jacks, and current gain for moving-coil cartridges through the balanced XLR inputs. Rear-panel switches select between RCA or XLR inputs and offer a convenient ground lift. Either the single-ended or the balanced outputs can be used with either input. Unfortunately, the tight spacing of the RCA input and output jacks, which are mounted on the circuit board, will somewhat limit your choice of cables: Pairs of thick-barreled plugs will have difficulty fitting.
Art Dudley  |  Nov 19, 2006  |  0 comments
Anyone who knows me will be happy to tell you: I'm very bad at letting go of anger. I hold grudges. I'm unforgiving.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 05, 2007  |  First Published: Oct 05, 2003  |  0 comments
"Everybody's gotta get into the act!" Jimmy Durante used to say. That's what's happening with phono preamplifiers—they just keep being built, and I keep getting them for review. Up for evaluation in next month's column are new models from Perreaux, Musical Fidelity, Graham Slee, and a Chinese one, Ming Da. You can bet there'll be more.
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 31, 2009  |  First Published: May 31, 2009  |  0 comments
I first spotted Audia Flight's exquisite-looking two-box phono preamplifier ($6100) at last year's Hi-End show in Munich, and now that Musical Sounds is importing Audia Flight gear, a review of the Phono seemed a good idea. I know nothing about Audia Flight or the designer, or what Italian audiophiles think of them, but the more time I spent with the versatile, exquisitely built Phono, the more I liked everything about it.

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